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Chief Keef Running For Mayor Is The Least Of Chicago's Problems

Chief Keef Running For Mayor Is The Least Of Chicago's Problems

Originally published on Slant.

As much as Chief Keef may "hate bein' sober," he REALLY hates it when people violate his First Amendment rights.

The controversial Chi-Town Emcee, born Keith Cozart, was slated to make a surprise appearance via hologram Sunday night at Craze Fest, a hip-hop festival at a public park in Hammond, IN. The performance was billed as a "Stop The Killing" benefit concert, and hoped to raise money for fellow Chicago rapper Marvin Carr, who recently died in a shooting, and 13-month-old Dillan Harris who was killed by a vehicle fleeing the scene. 

But within minutes of the set, local police shut it down. This was the second Chief Keef hologram appearance shut down in a week.

The reason? According to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the mere presence of a computer projection of the rapper "posed a significant public safety risk."

In the words of Mr. Keef, "That's the shit I don't like."   Now let's be clear: Chief Keef is not a model citizen. At only 19 years old, he already has an impressive rap sheet. He routinely references gang affiliation in his raps. He's shot bullets at (and missed) police officers. He's been arrested and charged with a felony for manufacturing and distributing heroin. The dude's Wikipedia section on "Legal Issues" is almost as long as the sections on his music.   

In fact, the only reason Chief Keef was performing via hologram in the first place was because he was laying low, thanks to several outstanding warrants for his arrest relating to two separate child support cases.

But regardless of his criminal record, the lyrics in his songs, or his contributions (or lack thereof) to society, one thing must rise above everything else: Chief Keef is entitled to the same rights as anyone else in this country. 

Chief Keef performing live and in the flesh. (Jack Sommer/Flickr)

Chief Keef performing live and in the flesh. (Jack Sommer/Flickr)

The weekend prior to the Craze Fest set, Mayor Emanuel tried out his best Tipper Gore impersonation in anticipation of another Chief Keef hologram appearance at a theater in Chicago. Mayor Emanuel deemed Chief Keef "an unacceptable role model" that "promotes violence" through his music. And, not wanting to tick off the most powerful political figure in Chicago, local promoters canceled the show.

The mayor of Hammond, Thomas McDermott, had similarly baseless reasons for canceling the show. According to Mayor McDermott, “All I’d heard was he has a lot of songs about gangs and shooting people — a history that’s anti-cop, pro-gang and pro-drug use. He’s been basically outlawed in Chicago, and we’re not going to let you circumvent Mayor Emanuel by going next door."

Mayor Tom McDermott of Hammond, IN. (Source: Hammond Mayor's Office

Mayor Tom McDermott of Hammond, IN. (Source: Hammond Mayor's Office

These are cut-and-dry examples of the government restricting speech because of a viewpoint being expressed. Canceling a concert because you don't like what an artist has to say is a violation of the First Amendment.

Just weeks prior, we had members of the Ku Klux Klan openly marching on the South Carolina Statehouse with full police protection. BUT A HOLOGRAM OF A RAPPER was not allowed to perform because it "posed a significant public safety threat."

An exercise in freedom of expression. (Zach NeSmith/Flickr

An exercise in freedom of expression. (Zach NeSmith/Flickr

Whenever government officials want to silence the speech of someone possessing a viewpoint they disagree with, we usually hear about some abstract, general safety concern. However, as we see in Terminiello v. The City of Chicago (1949), speech is constitutionally protected, even if there is a present threat of violence. In other words, the government can't preemptively silence speech just because they think that speech might lead to violence.

And while city officials might fear that Chief Keef's violent lyrics could incite crime at the concert, the constitutional precedents of Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) and Hess v. Indiana (1973) indicate that only if speech is likely to cause "imminent" criminal conduct can it be punished. Violent rap lyrics can't be considered evidence of imminent criminal conduct.

Any freshman in a high school civics class can tell you that performing artists can't be "basically outlawed" by the government. Sure, musicians can be blacklisted from certain venues or promoters, but that's dealing with private businesses. When it comes to issues of the general public, a.k.a. those that deal with local, state, or the federal government, "basically outlawed" is basically unconstitutional. 

To his credit, Chief Keef seems to be handling the situation well. In fact, he's proposing an alternative to Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Mayor Chief Keef. 

SOSA 2016 Y'ALL!!!

Cover photo: Getty

 

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